The white flame
was a literary device
in a book
whose dance
drew Lori into
the blank spaces
between black words
on cream colored pages.

She felt tied up
by the somatic gestures
of the sorceress
who conjured
the smokeless flame
and healed
the peasantry
who were about to expire.

The final gesture
freed her
from the page
only to have sleep
and dream
return her
to the wretched scene
of the burnt village
and the moans
of the wounded.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Recitation

It is nighttime.
I leave my body while it sleeps
and sit on the bed beside myself.

The digital clock’s red numbers display 12:53.
The motion sensor flips on an outside light.
The light comes through the blinds to brighten the walls.

There is the temptation to walk away from myself.
To go to the drawers and pack.
To take a trip.

My dreaming mind hikes Mount Wheeler under starlight.
My body remains in bed in Albuquerque.
My separate self is frozen in indecision.

I nod my head, consider the importance of remaining.
How I and this snoring body are a team.
Teamwork generates contentment.

I keep nodding.
The dream walk reaches Williams Lake.
I recite poems to night owls.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Plastic in the Ocean a Mile Deep

My night dreams tell me lies.
They talk in an untranslated code.

Shut up! I am tired of your half-truths.
Of your determining your own truths.

Your handgun is hidden
at the back of your sock drawer.

That is why I always go home
no matter how drunk we get.

You ignorant bastard.
You spat in my good eye.

When you walked down the aisle
you slapped people on the back of the head.

Mercury in retrograde is a good excuse.
So is fake snow on ski slopes.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shoeless Joe

Paul unpacked his dreams
in the wrong language.

His fear of not being understood
fumbled away all the umlauts.

Now refugees, his dreams
wandered into other people’s sleep.

Immigration services refused to find his dreams.
Paul cried into his hands.

His damp hands smeared the paperwork.
Reduced the number of pills in the prescribed bottle.

Far too few pills to sleep once.
No where near enough to meet his ancestors.

On the way home, Paul drove by
one of his dreams sitting at the bus stop.

His solitary dream refused to enter his car
for a ride home.

It claimed to be in the process of self actualization
with a bus ticket to Dyersville, Iowa.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Note: Dyersville, Iowa is the town nearest to the Field of Dreams site.

Mother’s Face Never Makes an Appearance

In a dream Lori was a pack of cigarettes.
Each new man she dated
withdrew a smoke and lit it on fire
and after one long drag left it to smolder
on the edge of an ashtray.

In another dream Lori was a TV remote
where the previous channel button
returned the view to a news station
that only covered mass shootings
with explicit footage and detailed descriptions.

In Wednesday’s dream Lori
was a volcano that erupted laughter
and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere
until the plume surrounded the earth
following the jet-stream’s curved line.

On nine-eleven Lori dreamt
she was a staircase in the north tower.
She was glad people walked all over her—
sad when gravity overcame damaged structure
and brought her world tumbling down.

On New Year’s Eve Lori dreamt
all the opportunities she missed in the previous year
especially how the camera adored her
in a culture where plus-sized models
were celebrated on page and screen.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Memory Closet’s Corroded Doorknob

My unfinished dreams
sent me a strike notice.

They picketed the ghost towns
of my mind

and inhabited all the empty buildings
of those neighborhoods.

It was not that I forgot to work on them
but resources were scarce

due to supply chain issues
and intellectual property rights.

And the pandemic dropped
countless yellow rubber ducks

to bob in the Rio Grande
where no kids splashed bath water.

My unfinished dreams
carried signs and told

unbearable stories
in squeaky voices

so I would repair the boardwalks
along the ocean ghost towns

and light them up
with various amusements.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Flame Under an Iron Pot Heats Water

I am saddled with dreams.
Ridden like a horse.

The dreams line up
to form a misshapen narrative.

A novel written in codes
out of sequence.

Unable to sleep
due to sepia images

of John Brown at the gallows
in Charles Town Virginia

I wonder what part of my self
requires emancipation.

Or if my hand is the slaver’s
whip cracking hand

stroking the backs
on people who I claim to love.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Matchbox Souvenir Collection

Jesus reached down from heaven
and placed his hand
on Lori while she slept.
He quieted her nightmare heart
with the unintended consequence
she dreamt kissing the lips
of the Christ on the Cross
in at least one local church per day
while on a great American road trip.
Her road trip started
at the ferris wheel
on Santa Monica pier
and traveled U.S. Highways
all the way to Roosevelt
Campobello International Park
near Eastport Maine
with many stops in between
for red place-of-interest boxes
sprinkled across the map.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Night Light

Paul slept with a river smooth rock
under his pillow.

And a piece of petrified wood
machine-polished smooth.

On his nightstand
a dozen shaped clay snails

carried lustrous shells
collected from the garden’s carnage.

As sleep’s easy breath
shifted into a nightmare’s labored breathing

fog emerged from Paul’s mouth
as if the infernal dream tried to take shape.

The vapor froze into crystals that sparkled
lit with phosphorescence.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

While Wearing the Wrong Talisman

The radio turned on by itself.
It played a Cubs-Mets game from nineteen-sixty-nine.

The mirror turned black.
It chose to absorb light rather than reflect it.

My clothes rained
when I wore them outside under the sun.

Gold rings are bad in Fairy Tales
so I refused to give one to my beloved at our wedding.

A towhee perched above our sleep
caught our dreams like moths.

A flicker pecked ear-worms
out of my drummed head.

In a curiosity shop we came upon
a crucifix pencil.

To write a poem the Christ’s head bobbed
back and forth with google-eyes.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney